By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
As I sit in my backyard and survey my beautiful and hopefully bountiful garden I crack open a new reference book.
I discovered this book at the local feed and seed store in my community.
The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! edited by Carleen Madigan was not just another gardening book but represented a modern day movement that is cropping up everywhere. You can find it on the Internet, in neighbors’ backyards, and even at your child’s school.
The Backyard Homestead claims that 1,400 eggs, 50 pounds of wheat, 60 pounds of fruit, 2,000 pounds vegetables, 280 pounds of pork, and 75 pounds of nuts can be grown on a quarter of an acre. This sounds great and in a perfect world we would never have to go to the grocery store again but just like anything else something good can turn bad in the blink of an eye.
The gardening movement is blowing across the nation like dust during the Dust Bowl. Everyone is getting soil under their fingernails with the help from Home Depot classes, square foot gardening experts, and Master Gardener programs. Portland, Oregon and Detroit, Michigan is also seeing a resurgence of poultry farming in unexpected places. Who knew that chickens could grow so well in the inner city.
Even in a non-rural area such as my community I am seeing chickens roaming free in front yards, around dumpsters, and even in a well-hidden chicken coop. This movement is not only steered by economic times but also due to the DIY movement, food security, and what we see on shows like The Fabulous Beekman Boys on Planet Green whose guidance comes from the internet.
While I realize I have gone on and on about the farming movement I have only one thing to say and that is JUST DO IT. Starting a “garden” loosely put in modern terms is the first step to self-sufficiency and food security. Just 1 tomato plant planted in a self-watering container can produce 15 pounds of tomatoes and frankly that is a lot of tomatoes with very little effort, cost, or time.
The Backyard Homestead gives the reader motivation and the skill to grow just that 1 tomato plant and more. It also teaches those who want to reap the rewards from their garden year-round by providing how to information on preserving ones harvest.
If all this still has not convinced you that The Backyard Homestead is not just a reference book but a new way of looking at our modern life think about what Guy Clark stated in this book. “If I was to change this life I lead, I’d be Johnny Tomato Seed. ‘Cause I know what this country needs: homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see.”
The most important lesson I have learned from reading The Backyard Homestead and visiting the feed and seed which I have done many times is that it is “cool” to be a “farmer” and to take care of ones basic need, that is food. I t has not always been that way and those of us who have been in the industry as teachers, farmers, and chefs know this too well.
But as an Agricultural Education professional I am glad to see the movement and the realization that this is no longer an occupation held by those viewed as not intelligent but instead a way of life that cover areas that have not been “farmed” before. There no longer exists any area that cannot be “farmed.” Apartment dwellers, inner city youth and urban communities are getting involved. So I challenge you to pick one aspect of farming either fruit, vegetable, grain, or animal and start your own Backyard Homestead, Deck Homestead, or Container Homestead.
I promise you it will be life changing, it will change your dietary habits, and most of all it will make you a modern day Homesteader. So if you need additional information or feel like taking the challenge outside your comfort zone try The Backyard Homestead. It will not lead down the wrong dirt road.